Central Taiwan is known for its mountains, aboriginal villages, religious festivals, beautiful temples, waterfalls, forests, hot springs and folk arts and crafts. It is a good place to escape the cities and enjoy Taiwanese rural life. The region is famous for its "sea of clouds." You can even ski here in the winter.
Nantou County lies at the geographical heart of Taiwan and is the only county that does not border the coast. If the central region is the heartland of Taiwan, Nantou is Taiwan's heart. Nantou is heavily dependent on farming. Rustic areas and an abundance of agricultural products are therefore among the county's major visitor draws. There are dozens of well-planned recreational farm areas that are perfect for a quiet and leisurely family trip to the countryside.
Nantou County occupies an area of about 4,100 square kilometers. It is home to Taiwan's highest peak, Yushan (Mt. Jade), and 41 other 3,000-plus-meter mountains that form an unbroken and undulating expanse of green. Taiwan's longest river, the Zhuoshui River, winds through the county, and the island's most beautiful lake, Sun Moon Lake, completes the county's scenic tapestry.
Visitors can discover the beauty of Nantou along the seven main travel routes in the county. Accommodation choices range from world-class resort hotels to rural B&Bs. Whether you choose to stay at an exotic villa at Qingjing Farm or an elegant room at Puli Tao-Mi Eco-Village, you are never far from nature's scenic embrace. Enjoy a spring excursion to the outskirts, a cool summer escape, the starry nights of fall, or a winter hot spring soak and fun in the snow.
National Parks and Lake National Scenic Areas: Taroko National Park, Yushan National Park. Batongguan Historic Trail, Sun Moon Lake Peacock Park, Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao, Sun Moon Lake Lalu Island, Sun Moon Lake Maolan Mountain Hiking Trail, Sun Moon Lake Hanbi Hiking Trail, Sun Moon Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area, Bagua Mountain Scenic Area, Songboling Forest Park, Hehuanshan National Forest Recreation Area and Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area
Amusement Parks, Temples, Farms, Historical Sights, Resorts, Museums: Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village, Atayal Resort, Center of Taiwan Monument (The Stele of Taiwan's Geographical Center), Jiujiu Peak Nature Reserve, New Era Art Resort & Spa, Huisun Forest Station, Jiji Township, Xitou Sun Link Sea Forest Recreation Area, Green Tunnel Checheng, Shuili Snake Kiln, National Fonghuanggu Bird Park, Puli, Wushem Dongpu Hot Springs, Muh Sheng Museum of Entomology, Puli Brewery, Endemic Species Research Institute, Sun Moon Lake Xuanzang Temple and Xuanguang Temple Sun Moon Lake Wenwu Temple, Mingxin Academy, Sun Moon Lake Ci-en Pagoda, Chung Tai Chan Monastery, Qingjing Farm, Taiguang Herb Farm, Lugu Tea Culture Center, Jiji Township, Railway Impressions and Cycling Excursions,
Tourist Offices: Zhushan Visitor Information Center, No.1220, Jishan Rd, Zhushan Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-265-7668; Lugu Township Tourist Service Center, No.128, Sec. 1, Zhongzheng Rd, Lugu Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-275-5623
The Central Range of mountains runs in an arc from Suao in the north to Olanpi at the southern tip and makes up almost half the island's total area. The range is about 320 kilometers long and has 28 high peaks that top 3050 meters (10,000 feet). Eleven peaks of branch ranges exceed that elevation. Mt. Hsu-ku-luan, 12,468 feet, is the highest peak of the Central Range. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
Rivers originating in the Central Range are very short in the east, and considerably longer in the west. In the east, there is a famous "fault shoreline" running from Suao to the newly opened international port of Hualien. The fault scarp is high and almost vertical. The Suao-Hualien Highway, linking northern and eastern Taiwan, was laboriously carved out of the waist of the cliff.
Geologically, the Central Range is mostly composed of slate, schist, gneiss, granites, intrusive igneous rocks, and other formations resistant to weathering and erosion. With summits of between 3050 to 3855 meters (10,000 to 12,648 feet), passes are high. Few are at less than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). Relief is extreme. With their heavy forests and sheer walls, some of these mountains are virtually impenetrable.
Forests and Foothills of the Central Range
Adjacent to the Central Range is a narrow zone of foothills at elevation from 100 to 500 meters (330 to 1,640 feet). They are connected with the Central Range and linked with terrace tablelands in continuous slopes. Foothills have no system of ranges, no fixed direction, and no ridges of continuity. Low hills and gentle slopes are the rule and longitudinal valleys interspersed with transverse gullies are characteristic. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
From the foothills, the terrain descends to the terrace tablelands, which are composed entirely of gravel. The sandstone gravel deposits represent an accumulation of eroded material washed down from higher areas. These gravel beds may have been deposited near the sea and then raised by recent tilting.
Forests are estimated to cover 55 per cent of the land area. Due to the geographic location of Taiwan and the extreme climatic variations of the island, forest species are numerous. Of the 200 commercially recognized species, broadleaved species number 154, coniferous species 20, and exotic species 26. Among the most useful are yellow cypress, red cypress, spruce, fir, pine, Chinese hemlock, large leaved machilus, long leaved evergreen chinkapin, purple oak, camphor, Chinese guger, and bamboo.
Taichung (160 kilometers south of Taipei) is Taiwan's third largest city, with a population of 2.8 million people. Centrally located in west-central Taiwan and covering about 155 square kilometers, Taichung was founded by Chinese settlers in 1721 and given the name Tatun. The city received its current name in 1895 when the Japanese took control of Taiwan. The Japanese carried out major construction projects, building roads, railways and a shipping port, and transformed Taichung into a modern city and major political, economic, transportation, and cultural hub. Between 1948 and 1977, Taichung's population nearly tripled.
Linked by rail and roadway with Taipei and other Taiwanese cities, Taichung is the business center for and main gateway to central Taiwan. Most travelers stop here briefly on their way to somewhere else, usually Tarako Gorge and the Central Cross Island Highway.
Taichung enjoys a mild year-round climate with an average temperature of 22.4 degrees centigrade. It also has a highly developed industrial and commercial base, thriving cultural scene, friendly people, and beautiful scenery, all of which contribute to its status as an international-class city.
Through dedicated preservation efforts, Taichung has saved many of the city's historic sites and retains the original "chessboard" street plan from the Japanese era. There are universities and bookstores. Chingkuo Boulevard separates the old and new parts of Taichung. It is lined with sculptures and large shade trees. The Sogo Department Store is a popular shopping spot. The Splendor Hotel Taichung (formerly the Grand Formosa Tauihung) is a hotel with seven restaurants and wine and cigar bar that opened in the late 1990s.
Tourist Offices: Taichung Railway Station, Tel: -4-2221-2126, No. 172, Jianguo Rd, Central District, Taichung City, THSR Taichung Station, Tel: -4-3600-6646, No.8, Zhanqu 2nd Rd, Wuri Dist, Taichung City, Taichung Airport, Tel: -4-2615-5206, No. 42, Zhongqing Rd, Shalu District, Taichung City.
Sights in Taichung
Taichung is the home of the National Natural Science Museum and Taiwan Museum of Art. Its major tourist attraction is the 27-meter-high Happy Buddha of Taichung, Taiwan's largest statue. Among the many other sites of interest are 200-year-old Lecheng Temple, the ornate and much-visited Chenghuang Temple, the three-hall style Wanhe Temple, the Chang Liao Family Shrine, and 200-plus-year-old Zhenlan Temple in Dajia.
Taichung used to house what was claimed to be the world’s largest Guinness Book of Records Museum. Located inside a book-shaped building, it at one time contained real live bush women and Indian magicians. A large hall designed to resemble a giant Guinness Book of World Records book, half-open, and turned on its side. The complex also featured other structures, one shaped as a giant hamburger, which served as a snack bar, another like a giant Rubik’s Cube (a gift shop), and another like a huge soccer ball. In 1999, a Pakistani man, said to be the world's tallest man, spent four months living in the museum. The 2.36-meter-tall, 29-year-old Naseer Ahmaad Soomro was billed not just as an exhibit but as a sporting ambassador there to promote exercise among Taiwanese school children.
Jingming 1st Street is Taichung's official pedestrian-only street. The 100-meter-long street combines the functions of shopping, dining, recreation, and art, with boutique shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and galleries — and, on holidays, outdoor concerts and exhibitions. No vehicles are allowed to enter, and coffee shops provide outdoor seating. The street was named model street in 1995, and since has become a major tourist attraction in Taichung. Donghai International Art Street is close to Tunghai University and has created a utopian community for art lovers. The area showcases postmodern stores and coffee shops which smack of individual color and taste.
Taichung Folklore Park
Taichung Folklore Park(Lushun Road, Taichung City) opened in 1990 to enable the general public to understand more about the life style of their ancestors. The first Folklore Park built in Taiwan, it occupies 1.6 hectares and highlights the folk heritage of the people living in the coastal Fujian area at the end Qing Dynasty and early post-Qing period. The main features of the park are Folklore Hall, Folklore and Cultural Heritage Hall, Folk Arts Hall, Folk Arts Square and Folklore Square. The garden features seasonal flowers, artificial scenery, lotus ponds, traditional Chinese-style buildings, pavilions, steps, huts and houses.
The basement of the Folklore Hall, made using an ancient style construction, is for exhibition purpose. All the exhibits there have their unique historical backgrounds, showing the explorative spirit and the daily life of the early Taiwan inhabitants. In the Folk Arts Hall, during folk festivals, there are cerebration activities, conferences on folklore, tutorial and study meetings as well as performance on local arts and skills take place. The Folklore Hall is a traditional four-house combined structure. In the basement of the hall is the show room where one can find various farming tools, daily utensils and the costumes of different aboriginal tribesmen.
In the middle room of the Folklore Hall there is an exhibit with a worship table, with chairs and an octagon table, as well Chinese calligraphy and paintings and other items used for worship. By the two sides are bed rooms and rest rooms. There one can find a bed made of red wood, make-up table and mahogany chairs. The study room is at the east wing. On its walls hangs Chinese calligraphy and paintings. The west wing is the dwelling place of the younger generations and their families. In the kitchen there are wooden tables, wooden cabinets, ancient stoves, rain clothes and displays on different aspects of daily farming life. On the upper floor of the tea house visitors can sample aromatic Chinese tea. There are also shops selling traditional folk handicraft and art works. At the performing stage, a traditional ancient wedding ceremony, folk drum and flutes music shows are held from time to time.
The Folk Hall in Taichung Folk Park was built to resemble a traditional, southern Fukien-style U-shaped compound. The plaza is used for various cultural and folk performances. Artists- in-residence give displays of dough figure-making, paper-cutting, bamboo weaving, and other traditional skills. During festivals and holidays, the park comes alive with Chinese acrobatic displays, dragon and lion dances, top-spinning, and other activities.
Getting There by Public Transport: TRA Taichung Station Taichung City Bus (No.71) to Folklore Park By Road: Visitors are advised to leave the Sun Yat-sen Freeway at the Daya Chung ching interchange and take Wenxin Road to the park: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Daya Interchange Zhongqing Rd. Sec. 4, Wenxin Rd. Sec. 2, Chongde Rd. Sec. 2, Lushun Rd; Address: No.73, Sec. 2, Lushun Rd, Beitun District, Taichung City, Tel: -4-2245-1310.
Shopping and Night Markets in Taichung
There are also a number of department stores and distinctive shopping areas and boutiques in Taichung. Jingming 1st Street is Taichung's official pedestrian-only street. The 100-meter-long street combines the functions of shopping, dining, recreation, and art, with boutique shops, coffee shops, restaurants, and galleries — and, on holidays, outdoor concerts and exhibitions. No vehicles are allowed to enter, and coffee shops provide outdoor seating. The street was named model street in 1995, and since has become a major tourist attraction in Taichung. Donghai International Art Street is close to Tunghai University and has created a utopian community for art lovers. The area showcases postmodern stores and coffee shops which smack of individual color and taste.
Zhonghua Night Market features all kinds of Taiwan cuisines, including Taiwanese snacks, Taichung meatballs, spring rolls, angelica ducks, oyster omelet, meat thick soup, rice pudding, and Singapore sparerib soup. This market is On Zhonghua Rd.,near Gongyuan Rd. and Minzu Rd, Taichung City. Fengjia Night Market is known for "Low pries, all included.” It offers several of cuisines, clothes and accessories. It is situated on Fuxing Rd, Fengjia Rd. and Wenhua Rd, between Sec. 2, Xitun Rd. and Xi-an St, Taichung City.
Donghai Villa Night Market is more of a shopping area than a night market.The stores are fixed here, most of them offer food and beverage, others offer clothes and daily necessities. There's an "Art Street" on Guoji Street at Donghai Villa on Zhonggang Road. Here there are antique shops, tea shops, and coffee shops.
Taichung is located in a rich agricultural region and is central Taiwan's principal trading center for bananas, sugar, and rice. For those who like the outdoors, Chitou Forest Recreation Area and Sun Moon Lake are two major destinations. The Chitou Forest Recreation Area, located 80 kilometers south of Taichung, covers over 6,000 acres and is the site of Taiwan's largest bamboo forest. Here you can find a cypress tree that is nearly 3,000 years old and 151 feet tall. The interior of the tree is hollow and visitors are allowed to peer upward from an observation platform at the base of the tree. Approximately 80 kilometers southeast of Taichung, the Sun Moon Lake is a popular resort area that offers many sight-seeing opportunities and activities. Among the notable structures at Sun Moon Lake are the Hsuan Chuang Temple, the Wen-Wu Temple, and the Tzu En Pagoda which, at 150 feet, is the tallest pagoda in Taiwan.
Taiwan Folk Village (near Changhua near Taichung) opened in the late 1990s. it displays old buildings and offers demonstrations of traditional crafts and performing arts. Tourist Office: Changhua Railway Station, Tel: -4-728-5750, No. 1, Sanmin Rd, Changhua City, Changhua County
Lukang (near Taichung ) is an important cultural town with a “deer harbor” and impressive Matsu and Lungshan temples. The cuisines of Lugang includes dishes and snacks made with sturgeon, eel, oyster, clams, river shrimp, and Chinese oystera, and desert like bird-eye cake, lard cake, cow tongue shaped cakes, shortcake, peanut candy and Chinese bread. Among the shops here are Yu-Zhen-Zhai, in operation since the Qing dynasty. Tourist Offices: Lukang North District Visitor Information Center, No.488, Fuxing Rd, Lugang Township, Changhua County, Tel: -4-784-1263; Lukang South District Visitor Information Center, No.110, Sec. 8, Zhanglu Rd, Lugang Township, Changhua County, Tel: -4-776-1739.
Kukuan (1½ hours from Taichung) is small 650-meter-high town and hot spring resort on the western end of the Central Cross-Island Highway. The hot water from the springs are fed into baths in the hotels. There is also a zoo, a botanical garden, and a waterfall that can be reached with short hike.
East West Cross island Highway
East West Cross island Highway is a mountain highway that connects Taroko Gorge on the eastern side of the island with Taichung in the west. Blasted through solid rock in less that four years at a cost of US$11 million and 450 lives, it is a is a vital link between the eastern and western parts of Taiwan. The road crosses high passes, flowing mountains streams and skirts deep gorges. There are stunning views of mountains and forest along almost its entire length.
At Lishan, the road splits: the northeast branch heads to the northeast coast; the other branch leads past Shihmen Reservoir to Taipei. The east branch leads to Taroko Gorge. It takes about a day of driving and sightseeing to traverse the highway. Many travelers take three days to complete the journey, enjoying side trips to Wuling Farm and Hohuanshan.
The East-West Cross-Island Highway starts from the Taichung plain in western Taiwan and reaches the international port of Hualien in eastern Taiwan. It is 185 kilometers (115 miles) long and has two branches totaling 250 kilometers (155 miles). Construction began in 1956 and was completed in 1960. The highway is accelerating economic development of eastern Taiwan, advancing the cultural interflow between eastern and western Taiwan, and promoting tourism. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
The road winds around, climbs over, and bores through the Central and East Coast Ranges of mountains. Scenery is spectacular. Temperatures, flora, and fauna change rapidly as the highway rises to within the shadow of the peaks, then plunges back toward sea level. Most of the soils in the high mountain area traversed by the highway are shallow and infertile. Few of them would support cultivated crops and they carry only a scant cover of native vegetation. On the other hand, there are a few areas here and there that are suitable for cultivation or for grazing. Most of these already have been found and settled.
The East-West Highway also is traveled by many tourists. The most breathtaking spot is Taroko Gorge at the eastern end of the highway and therefore easily accessible by plane to Hualien and a short drive from there. Taroko has 32 tunnels, a number of suspension bridges, skyscraping vertical cliffs, and a whitecapped stream in the gorge below. Waterfalls and bubbling springs are everywhere. Only a little more than an hour from Taipei by plane and bus or car, this is another world—and an integral part of Taiwan's mountain system.
Lishan is a small town in the middle of the Central Cross-Island Highway. Located almost 2000 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level, it is known for its cool climate, fruit orchards, and beautiful mountain scenery. Sights include the Lishan Cultural Museum, Lucky Life Mountain Farm and Heaven's Pool, a summer villa used by Chiang Kai-shek located next to a stunningly beautiful 2,650-meter-high (8,000-foot-high) alpine lake.
Wuiling Farm is a picturesque fruit growing area and the jumping off point for hikes to 3,884-meter-high Hsuehshan (Snow Mountain), Taiwan's second highest peak. According to Lonely Planet you are supposed to have a permit but no one is around to collect it. The climb takes between 10 and 12 hours and there are a couple of huts to stay in.
Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake (two hours by bus, southeast of Taichung) is Taiwan's most popular resort. Surrounded by lush misty peaks and tea plantations, this tranquil lake is located an elevation of 748 meters in the heart of the Central Mountain Range in the middle of Taiwan. A popular destination for honeymooning couples, it is known for its Western-style hotels, and geisha girl-like entertainers who descended from original Taiwanese aboriginals and dance in elaborate costumes. The lake itself is often filled with sailboats, waterskiers and windsurfers.
Sights in the lake area include Peacock Garden Zoo, Wen Wu temple, and the Filial Devotion Temple. The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village encompasses an aboriginal museum, model village (with replicas of dwelling used by nine different aboriginal tribes in Taiwan) and a stage show featuring the Harvest Dance, the Hunting Dance and the War Dance (spiced up a symbolic blood drinking from a wooden head). The nearby Hsitou Forest Recreation is famous for its bamboo forests.
Sun Moon Lake is the only natural big lake in Taiwan. The southern part of Lalu Island in the lake is shaped like a new moon, and the northern part is shaped like a sun; hence the name Sun Moon Lake. The most famous sights around the lake are the Itashao, Lalu Island, the Xuanzang Temple and the Ci-en Pagoda. The Shao Clan is the earliest clan that lived in the Sun Moon Lake region. Their traditions are kept alive in the region’s Harvest Festival, Sowing Festival and their annual handicraft fair.
The natural forests bordering these roads are good places for spotting birds such as the grey-cheeked fulvetta, grap-throated minivet, Formosan yuhina, gray tree pie, bamboo partridge, Chinese bulbul, muller's barbet, and the black bulbul. Colonies of black-crowned night herons and egretta garzettas, and birds such as the common kingfisher and the green-winged teal can be seen at the Dazhuhu water reservation, situated around the water gate. Besides these birds, fish, insects and wild vegetables are flourishing in the region as well.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 2. Take the train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Kuo-kuang Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 3. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Renyou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop. By Road: Freeway 1 Exit at the Nantun Interchange County Hwy 136 Prov. Hwy 74 Exit at the Kuaiguan Interchange Freeway 3 Wufeng System Interchange Freeway 6 Exit at the Ailan Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 21; Address: No.599, Jhongshan Rd, Yuchih Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-285-5668.
Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
The Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (one kilometer east of Sun Moon Lake) encompasses an aboriginal museum, model village (with replicas of dwelling used by nine different aboriginal tribes in Taiwan) and a stage show featuring the Harvest Dance, the Hunting Dance and the War Dance (spiced up a symbolic blood drinking from a wooden head).
"Formosan" is an old name for Taiwan plus it is a name Taiwanese sometimes use to describe the nine indigenous Gaoshan ethnic groups: the Yamei, Amei, Taiya, Saixia, Zou, Bunong , Beinan, Lukai, and Paiwan, which keep their traditional culture alive. The Pingpu people are not included. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]
Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village was established in 1986 and embraces a total area is 62 hectares. The village contains five theme parks: the European Gardens, the Aladdin Plaza, the Aboriginal Villages, Amusement Isle and Ti Ka Er Rainforest. Amusement facilities in these five theme parks include joy ride, cultural square, artistic fountain, museums, 3-D theater, and aboriginal dance shows. It combines tourism, culture and educational functions. Efforts have been made to update the amusement facilities and reflect aboriginal tribes in a tasteful way.
The village is made up primarily of traditional houses and local-style villages, with some modern facilities, imitations of European building and art sculpture and amsusments such as "Shuishalianli Palace" and "Laser Music Fountain". In the village, there are culture, entertainment and life facilities, such as "Mountain Region Cultural Relics Museum," a performance hall, opera theatre, mountain-viewing tower and restaurants.
The buildings and village reconstructions are based in part on a survey by the Japanese scholar Qianqianyan in 1930. The aboriginal village can be divided into nine smaller villages based on the different tribal groups. Each village has its own unique features. Some buildings are covered with couch grass and use slab stones for roof beama; Some resemble caves and rooms and walls built with stones; some have wooden posts and weave bamboo into the buildings; some have carved beams and painted rafters. Some are simple and refined; others are more elaborate.. Inside and around the buildings are objects and performances that help visitors gain some understanding of clan organization, living facilities, religious beliefs, sacrificial offerings, wedding and funeral customs, etiquette and taboos.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus (bound for Puli, Sun Moon Lake) to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village stop; 2. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Renyu Bus (bound for Sun Moon Lake) to Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Nantun Interchange County Hwy 136 Prov. Hwy 74 Exit at the Kuaiguan Interchange Nat'l Hwy 3 Wufeng System Interchange Nat'l Hwy 6 Exit at the Ailan Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 21 County Hwy 131 Township Road Tou-67; Address: No. 45, Jintian Lane, Dalin Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-289-5361.
Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao
Sun Moon Lake Ita Thao (on Sun Moon Lake) has a visitor’s center and shopping area. Ita Thao is called Barawbaw in Thao language. The Han people call it North Cave. It was named Te Hua village after the restoration of Taiwan, and is under the administration of Yuchi.
Barawbaw is the last residence of the Thao people at Sun Moon Lake. On account of the continuous stream of visitors, many Han Chinese moved here cash in on the tourism trade. Therefore, Ita Thao has become the most populous area around the Sun Moon Lake. There are stores, restaurants, and hotels in the village. the Thao people established the "Thao Cultural Village" for tourists to appreciate the traditional culture, songs, and dancing of the Thao tribe.
The harvest ceremony, the most important and splendid event of the year, is held during August on date defined by in lunar calendar. If you visit Ita Thao during this month, you will have the chance to appreciate the culture of Thao people. Barawbaw (Ita Thao) is also the entrance to the Shuishe Mountains.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 2. Take the train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Guoguang( Kuo-kuang) Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 3. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Renyou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop. By Road: Freeway 1 Exit at the Nantun Interchange County Hwy 136 Prov. Hwy 74 Exit at the Kuaiguan Interchange Freeway 3 Wufeng System Interchange Freeway 6 Exit at the Ailan Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 21; Address: Ita Thao, Sun Moon Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-285-5668. Ita Thao Visitor Center, No. 127, Wenhua Street, open 9:00am to 5:00pm. Ita Thao Shopping District, Yiyong Street Open 8:00am to 6:00pm.
Wenwu Temple and Lalu Island at Sun Moon Lake
Wenwu Temple (at the shoulder of mountain on the north of Sun Moon Lake) was built in 1938 by people worried the water of Sun Moon Lake might cover Longfeng Temple and Ihuatang of Shuishotsun. Wenwu Temple is comprised of two buildings (Longfeng Temple and Ihuatang) and was rebuilt in 1969. Its gate faces to the north. People pray to of Confucius, the Military Saint Guangong, and the Established God of two temples. The temple is popular among students praying to get good scores on their tests.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 2. Take the train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Guoguang (Kuo-kuang) Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 3. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Renyou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Nantun Interchange County Hwy 136 Prov. Hwy 74 Exit at the Kuaiguan Interchange Nat'l Hwy 3 Wufeng System Interchange Nat'l Hwy 6 Exit at the Ailan Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 21; Address: No.63, Zhongshan Rd, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-285-5668.
Lalu Island (the center of Sun Moon Lake), was called Guanghua Island in the past. Sun Moon Lake is the most famous water reservoir in Taiwan. Lulu Island is known as the island on the water. This area was dwelled by the Shao tribe in the past and the island had been called Lalu until 1946, when the government renamed it Guanghua Island. In the severe earthquake in 1999, Sun Moon Lake reservoir was damaged and a historic site of the Shao tribe was discovered. Thus, in 2000, the island was renamed Lalu again. The Shao tribe considers the island a sacred place and thus tourists cannot visit the island; however, you can still learn about the Shao tribe along the tracks surrounding the lake.
Lalu Island is said to be a sacred place for the Shao tribe. Witch candidates of the tribe would have to come to the island to seek approval of the ancestors' spirits. The witches are in charge of incantation and rituals. The Japanese also left a stone monument, remembering the development of Sun Moon Lake during Japanese occupation.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 2. Take the train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Kuo-kuang Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop; 3. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Renyou Bus to Sun Moon Lake stop. By Road: Freeway 1 Exit at the Nantun Interchange County Hwy 136 Prov. Hwy 74 Exit at the Kuaiguan Interchange Freeway 3 Wufeng System Interchange Freeway 6 Exit at the Ailan Interchange Prov. Hwy 14 Prov. Hwy 21; Address: Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-285-5668.
Hiking and Bicycling at Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake Hanbi Hiking Trail is about 1.5 kilometers. All the steps of trail are made from red bricks You can see many water-fowls in the morning. Walking down to the wharf, you can see the beautiful scenery of Ci-en Pagoda, Lalu Island.
Mt. Maolan Hiking Trail is located at Mingtan middle school. You can go through it to Taiwan Provincil Tea Improvement Station, Yuchi Branch and Weather Forecast Station, Sun Moon Lake Station. The length of this trail is about 4.6 kilometers. There are farms of Assam black tea and cedar trees here. It is a good place for sunrisewatching.
In 2012, CNN described the bike riding around Sun Moon Lake as one of “10 Breathtaking Cycling Routes.” The two main routes are the leisurely 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) Yuetan Bike Path or Sun Moon Lake route from Shuishe, Taiwan which goes around the entire lake and covers 29 kilometers (18 miles). According to the blog jessieonajourney.com; “ The trail is a truly pleasant and scenic experience. Along with cycling around the lake’s sparkling turquoise waters and taking in skyline views and colorful boats, there are small beaches, wildlife like frogs and birds, and lush flora like bamboo trees, banana trees, ferns, palm trees, rice paddies and more. You’ll ride over some modern bridges that look like abstract works of art, as well as see locals selling street food, fishing and enjoying scenic strolls along the water. There are a few attractions you can visit along the way, including the Xiangshan Visitor Center, Longfeng Temple (where they worship the God of Matchmaking) and the Shui she Dam.
“Those interested in doing the bike trail can rent a bike from Giant (known for their extremely high quality bikes) right before the trail for about $6 per hour. Additionally, you can stay at the beautiful Sun Moon Lake Hotel, which rents bikes to guests for free and offers views of the lake and trail from their floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel is located right on the trail, so you can cycle right out their back door onto it.
Puli and Its Brewery Factory
Puli (18 kilometers by road from Sun Moon Lake) is situated at almost the exact center of Taiwan. With an elevation between 380~700 meters, Puli is a basin surrounded by rising and falling mountains, hills and farmland. The most famous tourist spots include the Puli Brewery Factory, Guangxing(Guangshing) paper factory, and Chung Tai Chan Monastery. Special products from the region include wild rice stems, passion fruit, red sugar canes, rice-noodles, and Shaoxing wine.
Due to the warm weather and sweet, clear water that the Puli area is known for producing excellent quality shaoxing (shaohsing), traditional Chinese wine made fermented from rice, which is bright yellow in color and has strong, appealing fragrance. The Puli Brewery Factory, which makes shaoxing is a landmark in Puli, In addition to producing shaoxing, the brewery actively promote shaoxing-drinking the culture and preserves the history of the brewery with the first Wine Culture Museum in Taiwan.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR or train to Taichung Station, continue by Nantou Bus (bound for Sun Moon Lake) to Puli stop; 2. Take the train to Taichung Railway Station, continue by Nantou Bus (bound for Puli) to Puli stop. By Road: Freeway 1 Changhua System Interchange Freeway 3 Wufeng System Interchange Freeway 6 Exit at the Puli End Interchange Prov. Hwy 21. Address: Puli Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-298-4040.
Shuili Snake Kiln
Shuili Snake Kiln (10 kilometers southwest of Sun Moon Lake) is the town known for it tradition of ceramics- and kiln-making. The biggest kiln, which is 6.69 meters tall, has been recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. Also in area is the 921 Earthquake Memorial, Guinness Book of Records pottery information center, which contains a coffee shop, civilization center, multi-media center, mold room, art room, and pottery room.
Located off the Jiji Green Tunnel, the winding, snake-like kiln was spared by the 921 Earthquake. The main wall of kiln is inscribed with a lighthearted poem. One person posted on Trip Advisor: “The kiln is in a very beautiful setting and you can walk through the tunnel of it. Waiting for you on the other side is a lovely gift shop, gallery, and the opportunity to make your own creation on the potting wheel. Plenty of instruction is given, the price is affordable, and a month later they will ship your painted and fired item to you.”
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the train to Shuili Railway Station, continue by Fengrong Bus (bound for Puli or Shuanglong) to Snake Kiln stop. By Road: Freeway 1 Changhua System Interchange Freeway 3 Exit at the Mingjian Interchange Prov. Hwy 3 Prov. Hwy 16; Address: No.41, Dingkan Lane, Dingkan Village, Shuili Township, Nantou County, Tel: -(49)-277-0967.
Jiji: Mountain Railway and Cycling Routes
Jiji Township (near Sun Moon Lake) is the home of the Green Tunnel, bike trails, an old railway, various temples and sights and beautiful farmland. The nostalgic old train and historic stations on the Jiji Branch Line invite you to take a rail journey to an earlier time. Jiji Station, a century-old railway station, is just a few minutes away from Mingxin Academy. The Jiji Line is a 29.7-kilometers branch line in Changhua and Nantou Counties. The line was severely damaged in the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake but was repaired and resumed operations in February 2002.
A leisurely bike ride along 20.8-kilometer Jiji route is an excellent choice any time of the year. The Green Tunnel is The 4.5-kilometer Jiji Green Tunnel is a sun-speckled route lined with a over a thousand hundred-year-old camphor trees. The trees form a beautiful green canopy to shade away the summer heat and set a perfect scenic note. The challenging bicycle ride up to the peak of Jiji Mountain is rewarded with a view of the cloud-nestled Yushan (Jade Mountain), Hehuan Mountain, Sun Moon Lake, Jiujiu Peak, and Bagua Mountain. Tenshing Kiln and Jiji 921 Culture Wall
Endemic Species Research Institute (ERSI) is home to one the largest collections of endemic species in Taiwan, offering ample opportunity to learn about the island's natural world. A small station serving the institute was recently added on the Jiji Bran Jiji Mountain Cosmos flowers and brilliant red roses form a sea of color at the Jiji Peace Garden. In addition to the flowers, sweet dragon fruit, lychees and other tasty seasonal fruit await for the picking. Jiji Weir stretches 352.5 meters as is the longest weir in Taiwan. The weir has 18 spillways and a water resource hall with viewing platform. Zhenguo Temple Buddhist Stupa, aso known as the World Peace Pagoda, boast the highest Buddhist stupa in Southeast Asia and has 208 bronze prayer wheels.
Tourist Office: Ershui Visitor Information Center, No.1, Guangwen Rd, Ershui Township, Changhua County, Tel: -4-879-8129 ; Getting There by Public Transport: 1.THSR: Take the THSR to Wuri Station in Taichung. Follow the station signs to Xinwuri Station (Taiwan Railway) and take the train to Ershui and transfer to the Jiji Branch Line; 2. Taiwan Railway: Take the train to Ershui Station and transfer to the Jiji Branch Line; 3. Bus: From Gancheng Station in Taichung, take the Shuili-bound All-Da Bus to Jiji; or from Ershui, Yuanlin, or Zhushan, take the Yuanlin Bus to Shuili to Jiji.
Chiayi (80 kilometers south of Taichung City) is a small city in the middle of Taiwan. It is the jumping off point for trips to Alishan, Yushan National Park and Taiwan's highest mountains. It is also famous for its rat dishes: The Tropic of Cancer passes near Chiayi City and Hualien. There is a monument just outside Chiayi City that marks the line.
Some of the earliest pioneers from Zhangzhou in Fujian Province landed in Chiayi City and settled in the area near present Xingang. The inhabitants of the area remained loyal to the imperial government during the Lin Shuang-wen rebellion in 1786 — a period of history recorded in artifacts preserved in Yimin Temple in Chiayi City.
Chiayi is located in a fertile agricultural region and grew as a trading center for rice and sugar grown near the city. The hills surrounding the city are heavily forested, which has led to the development of lumber, paper and plywood industries. Among the other industries in Chiayi are cement, and tires. Chiai is linked by rail and roadway with Taipei and Kaohsiung. Chiayi has a population of approximately 270,000.
Wenhua Night Market is said to attract a thousand of vendors. Among the snacks and dishes are “fountain chicken rice", "Kuo-jing-chen flat noodles soup" and "fried preserved cabbage and shrimp egg". The market starts at the fountain traffic circle on Zhongshan Rd. extend to Chuiyang Rd.
Tourist Offices: 1) Chiayi Railway Station, Tel: -5-225-6649, No. 528, Zhongshan Rd, Chiayi City; 2) THSR Chiayi Station, Tel: -5-310-7007, No.168, Gaotie W. Rd, Taibao City, Chiayi County; 3) Xingang Visitor Center, No.1, Zhongzheng Rd, Xingang Township, Chiayi County, Tel: -5-374-2111; 4) Puzi City Visitor Center, No.10, Wenming Rd, Puzi City, Chiayi County, Tel: -5-370-1630.
Chiayi Park and the Sun-Shooting Tower
Chiayi Park (in the suburban area of the east Chiayi City) was established during the Japanese colonial period and named "Chiayi Park." The name was once changed to "Zhongshan Park" after the KMT government arrived, but was changed back to its original name in 1997.
Chiayi Park was first developed along the hilltop landscape. Later, vacant lands to its east and west were included into the park and bridges were constructed and roads built. The park's current size is over 268,000 square meters. There are are tall old trees, waterside pavilions and houses on the terrace, fish ponds rockery decorations, and winding pathways that lead to secluded corners in the park. The design of the park makes good use of the original natural landscape of the area to create tasteful scenery and a free and unfettered ambiance.
There are many historic ruins in the park, including Martyrs' Shrine, Chiayi Tower, Fukang-an monument, Bingwu Earthquake monument, 12 ancient cannons, Chen Chengpo Easel, the way of the wall, Yijiangshan monument, Confucius Temple, and the national treasure of Mt. Ali Forest Railway No. 21 Steam locomotive. The densely wooded e Taiwan Forestry Research Institute of Council of Agriculture is in the northeastern corner of the park.
Chiayi Botanical Garden (in Chiayi Park) covers an area of about 8.6 hectares, belongs to the Forestry Experimental Institute of Agricultural Council and is an experimental place for the planning development of the economic tropical trees. Trees planted here include mahogany, Chinese firs, blackboard trees and Brazil rubber trees. Trees inside the park stand magnificently high like in a forest. Walking paths zigzag the trees. Currently there are 140 tree species in the garden, which is further classified into 47 families and 107 classes
Sun-Shooting Tower is 62 meters high. The design of the tower was inspired by the giant trees in Ali Mountain (Alishan) with the brownish aluminum stripes symbolizing the texture of the giant trees' outer surface. There is a 40 meters tall "one-line sky" in the middle of the tower and a bronze sculpture that originates from the "sun shooting myth" of the aboriginal people. This beauty myth symbolizes the heritage of human beings and reveals the spirit of carrying forward the cause and forging ahead into the future and conveys good meanings in a social-educational sense.
A pair of copper sculpture clouded leopards, which symbolize the tutelary god of Formosa, stand at the entrance of this tower. Martyr's Shrine is located at the bottom layer of the tower, while the tower top is equipped with a cafe restaurant and watchtower. The beautiful and eye-catching giant city flower — Bauhinia blakeana or Hong Kong Orchid Tree - which sits on the inclined roof at the tower tip is there to attract the attention of passers-by. Visitors can enjoy a panorama view of the entire Chiayi City from the tower top and appreciating the picturesque scenery of the mountain city at one glance.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the train to Chiayi Railway Station, continue by Chiayi County Bus (Downtown Route No. 2) to Chiayi Park stop. By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Chiayi Interchange County Highway 159 County Highway 159A Qiming Rd. Gongyuan St; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhongpu Interchange Provincial Highway 18 Dayi Rd. Zhongyi Rd. Mituo Rd. Qiming Rd. Gongyuan St; Address: No.46, Gongyuan St, East District, Chiayi City, Tel: -5-275-1357.
Alishan (50 kilometers southeast of Chiaya, south of Sun Moon Lake) is a delightful mountain resort area located at an altitude of 2675 meters (8,774 feet). Reached by either a highway or a narrow-gauge mountain railway, it features 2,000-year-old cypress trees with tall straight trunks of an enormous size. From Alishan it is possible to climb 13,064-foot-high Yu Shan, one of the highest mountain in East Asia. Famous for its sunrise view of a "sea of clouds" below Yushan, Alishan is extremely crowded on the weekends but a nice and peaceful on the weekdays. Be prepared for chilly nights.
Alishan National Forest Recreation Area is located in Alishan Township, Chiayi and covers an area of 1400 hectares. The main tourism spot is located at about 2,200 meters above sea level. It has cloudy mid-elevation temperate climate with an average annual temperature 10.6 degrees C and the annual rainfall is up to 400 centimeters. There are 209 raining days and 244 foggy days on average. The wet weather contributes the outstanding beauty of the forest and sunrise afterglow.
Mt. Ali, the principal peak of the Alishan Range, is 2816 meters (9,240 feet) high. It is known for its almost perpetual sea of clouds and its myriads of springtime cherry blossoms. The mountains is named after a chief of the Tsou tribe who, 250 years ago, went hunting in a mountain and came back with many kills. During the Japanese occupation, the area was heavily looged and the wood was shipped to Japan. The deforestation reportedly irritated the tree god so the Japanese set up a tower to worship the tree god.
Alishan is very famous for the sunrise view and the cloud ocean. The clouds are so dense and thick that the mountaintops appear like islands on the cloud ocean. The best time to watch the cloud season is autumn. Visitors can go to Ziyun Temple, Alishan Hotel, Alishan Rail Station, Zaoping Park and the first parking lot. The Alishan Forest Railway is very famous because it is one of the three mountain rails in the world. If you want to get off-the-beaten-track try the Alishan Northwest Corridor, a tourist-free region featuring more gorgeous tea farms, bamboo forests, hiking trails, and waterfalls. There are very few buses providing access to the area, so having your own transportation is a big help.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1THSR: Take the THSR to Chiayi Station, transfer to the train. Alishan Forest Railway: Take a train to Chiayi Railway Station, continue by Alishan Forest Railway to Alishan. Alishan Forest Railway was temporarily suspended by typhoon damage. By Bus: 1) Take a train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Kuo-kuang Bus to Alishan.. 2) Take a train to Chiayi Railway Station, continue by Chiayi County Bus to Alishan. By Road: 1. Freeway 1 Exit at the Chiayi Interchange Prov. Hwy 18; 2. Freeway 3 Exit at the Zhongpu Interchange Prov. Hwy 18; Address: No.3-16, Chukou, Chukou Village, Fanlu Township , Chiayi County, Tel: -5-259-3900. No. 95, Zhongzheng Village, Alishan Township, Chiayi County, Tel: -5-267-9917.
The Alishan Range of western Taiwan runs from south to north and provides a foothill arrangement for its higher neighbors. The northern section is broken up into solitary mountains or mountain groups. Height varies from 1,220 to 2745 meters (4,000 to 9,000 feet). [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
There are many spectacular precipices. In the southwest is Farewell Precipice. One false step from the trail paralleling it would plunge the mountaineer straight down into the valley below. Before the East-West Highway was built, there was a Good-Morning Cliff along the route. Rocks and debris were cleared away in the evening; mountain dwellers had to get going early the next morning before new landslides blocked their way.
Steep slopes abound. On the southern tip of the island is a Divorce Slope that received its name during the Japanese occupation. A Japanese policeman went to Japan, married, and brought his bride to Taiwan. On their way to his mountain police station, they had to climb a steep slope that was a three-hour journey for an experienced mountaineer. Half way up, panting, and with tears in her eyes, the bride looked at her husband and said: "I would rather divorce you than go on." The dutiful but inconsiderate policeman went on up and she went down—and returned to Japan.
The Alishan Loop Hike, a pleasant day hike from Ali Shan to the summit of Zhushan, is very popular. Many Taiwanese wake up at three or four in the morning to hike up Zhushan and witness the sunrise from the summit. There is also a minibus and a narrow gauge railroad that ascend to the summit. The narrow gauge train also takes visitors to Monkey Rock.
Alishan Tefuye Hiking Trail begins on Route 18 a few kilometers past the Alishan Park entrance. The 5.2 kilometers trail follows an old logging railway line built in 1910 by the Japanese used to transport the abundant red cypress found here. The railway was called the Shuishan Line and operated until the 1970s. The easy forest walk is mostly flat and passes through mossy and foggy forest for which Alison is known. The trail runs from Route 18 near the town of Zi Zhong to the aboriginal village of Tefuye. The trail is clearly marked, well maintained and very clear. It passes a waterfall and utilizes some wooden bridges. Distances are marked along the trail. There is a rest area at around the halfway mark. Many hikers walk there and then return back to Route 18 so they can get back to their car. The trailhead is just before the 97 kilometers km marker next to the police building.
Ruitai Historic Trail, is a four- or five-hour hike, near Fenqihu, passes through impressive bamboo forests. The trail begins in Ruili and ends in Taihe, a village near Fenqihu. There is only one morning bus per day from Chiayi to Ruili, bus 7315, departing from Chiayi station at 9:20am, taking about 1.5 hours. Fenqihu itself is also surrounded by bamboo forests, and there are shorter hikes around town. In spring you can see fireflies here at night, and there is also a mini train museum with original Alishan trains on display.
The Duigaoyue Trail is a two-hour return hike to Duigao Pavilion (2444 meters). This relatively easy trail follows the train tracks for some time, offering views similar to those seen from Zhushan. Rather than taking the train or walking back the way you came you can walk right on the tracks instead of the trail.
Tashan Trail is a difficult, four-hour return hike for sunrise. The platform at 2663 meters at the end offers great views of Tashan (Dashan, the highest peak in the Alishan massif) and Yushan (Jade Mountain, the highest peak in Taiwan). The trail begins at the Sister Ponds, follows the track train tracks going up, then veers north.
Shuishan Trail is an easy hour to hour and half hike that follows a railway line that once lead to Dongpu and is no longer used. The trail crosses over a wooden train bridge, and ends at the enormous 2700-year-old Shuishan Giant Tree. You can find the trail by looking for the spot where the old train line splits off from the Alishan to Zhaoping line a little south of Zhaoping.
Alishan Forest Railway
The Alishan Forest Railway was originally constructed for logging activities during the Japanese colonial period. It has become a popular tourist attraction over the years, because of its unique Z-shaped switchbacks, 47 tunnels and 72 wooden bridges. The 72-kilometer railway starts at Chiayi Station, which lies at 30 meters above sea level, and climbs to 2,274-meter-high Jhushan Station.
Construction of the Alishan Forest Railway began in 1899 by the Japanese. Intended to transport logs down the mountain, it has a 762mm gauge, a gradient of 6.25 percent, and a minimum turning radius of 40 meters. Traffic was opened on the 66.6-kilometer stretch between Chiayi and Erwanping in 1912, and was extended up Alishan in 1914. There are only a handful mountain railways in the world. They tend to: 1) use Shay-style steam locomotives with "umbrella-like” gears and vertical cylinders; and 2) employ horseshoe curve and U-turn style railway tracks, spiraling mountainous sections, and a switchback mountain rails. The Alishan railway has characteristics that are similar to those of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Chiayi, the railway travels along relatively flat terrain for 14.2 kilometers before beginning the long climb, corkscrewing around Mt. Duli, climbing 200 meters over a distance of five kilometers. The railway then travels on to Pingjena Station. From here it zigzags up the mountain, reversing direction at each new section of line as it gradually ascends Alishan. On its journey running from the plain to high mountains, the railway passes through 15 stations as well as three different climate zones: tropical, subtropical, and temperate. The vegetation along the circuitous route also changes from tropical to temperate and to finally alpine. Alisan Forest Railway's 762 mm narrow-gauge tracks, the only one of its kind in the world, combines three types of railways - the forest, mountain ascending and high mountain.
Intended to transport logs and carry supplies, the railway has now become an integral part of the Alishan recreation facilities. After the Alishan Express was established in 1984 (requiring 3 hours and 15 minutes for the complete journey), some of the carriages of the original trains were converted into hotel accommodation. A number of locomotives are also on display at the Old Railway Display Area located near Zhaoping Railway Station.
Unlike the national rail system administered by the Taiwan Railway Administration, the mountain railway is operated by the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture. The system is currently operated using diesel locomotives. However, there are occasional special public runs using the old steam-powered Shay locomotives.
Getting There by Public Transport: THSR: Take the THSR to Chiayi Station, transfer to the train. Alishan Forest Railway: Take a train to Chiayi Railway Station, continue by Alishan Forest Railway to Alishan. By Bus: Take a train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by Kuo-kuang Bus or Chiayi County Bus to Alishan. By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Chiayi Interchange Prov. Hwy 18; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhongpu Interchange Prov. Hwy 18; Address: Alishan Township, Chiayi County, Tel: -5-278-7006.
Yushan National Park
Yushan National Park (central Taiwan) is Taiwan's largest national park. Covering more than 1054.9 square kilometers, it embraces lush forests, frigid mountain lakes, and misty mountains. Yu Mountain (Yushan), which is 13,113 feet (3,952 feet) high, is the centerpiece of the national park, which includes large sections of the Central Mountain Range in four counties Nantou, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Hualien..
The park encompasses a variety of habitats ranging from broadleaf forest at lower altitudes to mixed forest, coniferous forest, bamboo, and finally, at the highest elevations, waist-high arrow bamboo, clumps of conifers, and bare rocky outcrops. Flowers include azaleas, which abound in spring, and a wide variety of colorful alpine blossoms. The park is home to a large variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies as well as 13 snake species and four lizard species. In the past, many of these species became endangered due to over-hunting; but with the establishment of the Yu Mountain(Yushan) National Park, they are gradually making a comeback. Larger mammals such as the black bear, sambar deer, Taiwan macaque, and serows (a type of goat antelope) can sometimes be seen, and their call is often heard. Rare animals include the Formosan rock monkey, Formosan reeves munjac, and Formosan serow.
The Yushan National Park contains 30 mountain peaks that exceed 3,000 meters above sea level. Established in 1985, the park is named after Yushan (Yu Mountain), also known as Jade Mountain, With these unique features, the Yushan National Park has been listed by the Ministry of Culture as one of the 18 potential World Heritage Sites in the country. Flora includes Meanwhile, 17 types of gymnosperm, 984 types of angiosperm, 238 types of pteridophyte and 177 types of bryophyte. Together, they represent the Taiwan high mountain forest ecological system.
Dongpu Hot Springs are situated in Yushan National Park. During the Japanese occupation period, this area was the site of a police sanatorium and later a number of hot spring hotels sprouted up here. The springs contain slightly alkaline and carbonic acid water that is clear, tasteless and rich in calcium bicarbonate, sodium, magnesium, and sulfur aluminum, with pH value of 7.5~8.5.. There are several well-known scenic sites close to the springs, including the Batongguan Historic Trail and Rainbow Waterfall. The Dongpu Hot Spring Area is located in Xinyi Township of Nantou County. Xinyi is Taiwan's largest plum producing area, so winter bathers can also enjoy the snow-like plum blossoms in Fonggueidou and Wusonglun. A variety of plum-based foods are available, including plum juice, plum vinegar, gummy dried plums, and plum brittle. Every year during the plum blossom season, the hillsides of Xinyi Township turn into a sea of blooms. Rouge plum is the dominant variety of plum grown in Xinyi Township.
Getting There by Public Transport: Train: 1) Take the train to Ershui Station. Then take the Jiji Line to Shuili Station and continue by the Yuanlin Bus (Shuili-Dongpu Line) to Dongpu (the last stop). From Dongpu you can take a taxi to Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center; 2) Take the Ali Mountain(Alishan) Forest Railway from Chiayi to Ali Mountain(Alishan) (the last station). Then continue by taxi to Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center. Bus: 1) From Gancheng Bus Station in Taichung, take the All-Da Bus (Taichung-Shuili Line) to Shueili (the last stop). Then take the Yuanlin Bus (Shuili-Dongpu Line) to Dongpu (the last stop) and continue by taxi to Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center; 2) Take the Chiayi County Bus (Chiayi-Ali Mountain(Alishan) Line) to Alishan (the last stop). Then continue by taxi to Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center. By Road: Car: From the North: Take Nat'l Hwy 3 and exit at the Mingjian Interchange Prov. Hwy 3 Prov. Hwy 16 Shuili Prov. Hwy 21 (New Central Cross-Island Highway Shuili-Yu Mountain(Yushan) Route) Xinyi Dongpu Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center From the South: Take Nat'l Hwy 3 and exit at the Zhongpu Interchange Prov. Hwy 18 (New Central Cross-Island Highway Chiayi-Yu Mountain(Yushan) Route) Leye Ali Mountain(Alishan) Tatajia(Tataka) Visitor Center; Address: Ali Mountain(Alishan) Township, Chiayi County, Tel: -(49)-270-2200.
Mt Yushan and the Yushan Range
Yushan is the highest point in Taiwan at 13,113 feet (3,952 feet) high, and because it is higher than Mt. Fuji in Japan, it is the highest mountain in Eastern Asia. Yushan used be called Mt. Morrison and has long been a goal of climbers. In 1930, French Ambassador to Japan Count de Billey came from Tokyo to make the ascent. Two Japanese princes made it to the top two years earlier.
The Yushan Range runs from a little north of the center of the island toward the southwest coast. It length exceeds 260 kilometers. Around Yu Shan are four subordinate peaks; together, the five are described as "Five Peaks Paying Homage to Heaven." Climate at the foot of the range is tropical and forest is abundant. Snowfall usually begins in October and the period of frost lasts about seven months. From a distance, snow-capped Yu Shan resembles a magnificent piece of white jade: thus the Chinese name "Yushan" or Jade Mountain. Snow may be found in some crevasses the year round. At 3,000 meters, some of the trees are more than 1,000 years old. [Source: Taiwan Review, June 1, 1964]
To climb Yushan you need a permit and a guide, which can be arranged through certain travel agencies. The number of climbers is limited to 90 a day on the weekdays and 150 per day on the weekends. Sections of the trail are periodically covered with landslides. The guides can help you negotiate the tricky parts. There is big demand for permits, especially if you want to make the climb on a weekend you need to make arrangements two or three months in advance. The starting point for the climb is at 2,600 meters in an area surrounded by large moss-covered cedars. As one climbs the trees get smaller and more dispersed among the rocks. Most hikers walk for five or six hours to a lodge, that can hold 90 people, sleep in the evening there and hike the last two-kilometers stretch in the middle of the night arriving at summit around 5:00am to catch the sunrise.
Tapachien Mountain (about 100 kilometers south of Taipei and 100 kilometers northeast of Taichung as the crow flies) is part of the Xuesan (Snow Mountain Range. Nicknamed the "world's largest wine bucket" because of its resemblance to a huge wine jar, this 3,492-meter-high peak is impressive looking and sacred to the Atayal tribe, who dissuaded climber from advancing up its cliffs until 1927, when its summit was finally reached by a team of Japanese climbers who temporarily evaded their Atayal guides, for whom climbing to the peak was a strict taboo, and made a quick dash for the summit. Because the rock on the mountain crumbles and breaks, climbers are currently not allowed to climb to the summit.
Tapachien Mountain is the third highest mountain in Taiwan, A hike of 20 kilometers and another one of 11 kilometers begin from the Chutung Forest Administration building next to the Matala River at Kuanwu. These hikes take several days and there are huts and hostels for hikers to spend the night. The trails passe bamboo groves, coniferous forests, and deciduous forests. There are six other mountains in the area that are over 3,000 meters high.
Gary Heath wrote in the Taipei Times: “Of the many dramatic 3,000-meter -plus mountains in Taiwan's central mountain range, the gargantuan Tapachien Mountain is one of the most immediately recognizable sights. Its extraordinary shape and remote location make it a popular hiking destination for local mountain enthusiasts, and like Uluru rock in Australia, it is shrouded in mythology and symbolism. [Source: Gary Heath, Taipei Times, August 4, 2001]
“In 1969, metal railings were added to Tapachien's limestone summit, making the climb to the top a popular tourist activity. The railing was taken down, however, after several people died scaling the steep rock face. Today, it is possible to approach the base of Tapachien Mountain, and walk across to Hsiaopachien, the mountain's satellite peak, but making it to the top of the big rock is not a practical proposition — a case of nature reclaiming a sacred site for an ethnic minority.
“And what a rock Tapachien Mountain is. It is a truly majestic jewel of stone in the middle of steep valleys and forested mountains. Although the mountain is the subject of many pictures and postcards, nothing quite prepares you for its arresting and magnetic presence. Reaching the mountain takes a couple of days and includes a grueling hike, but the amazing scenery makes this trek, or pilgrimage, more than worthwhile.
“Seen in the early morning, the angular, terraced summit of the 3,492m-tall Tapachien Mountain in black silhouette is a mysterious sight. The more regularly eroded Hsiaopachien Mountain is off to one side of its dominating neighbor. From Chungpa, a natural platform on the approach ridge overlooking the two major peaks, it is possible to get an unobstructed view of the summit of Tapachien Mountain. Even in a cold wind, the sight of the summit up close in full daylight is exciting.”
Mt. Sylvia, at 3,953 meters (12,972 feet) the second highest peak in Taiwan, is also in the Xueshan range. The "queen peak" of the island dominates the range. According to a Japanese geographer, Tadao Shikano, who surveyed the mountains of Taiwan, the Xueshan Range has more than 10 peaks exceeding 11,000 feet and some 40 peaks at about 10,000 feet.
Tapachien Mountain and the Atayal Tribe
Gary Heath wrote in the Taipei Times: “Tapachien Mountain is located in the traditional territory of the Atayal Aboriginal tribe, whose roots can be traced to the first Aboriginal migration from China to Taiwan about 12,000 years ago. Tapachien Mountain, known as Papak-Wagu to the Atayal,” is one of the sites of the tribe’s creation myth. “The shape and appearance of the mountain give the impression of being a rock split in two and it is widely believed among the Atayal that the first people originated from such a rock. [Source: Gary Heath, Taipei Times, August 4, 2001]
“Tapachien Mountain also plays an important role in Atayal oral history, in which the mountain is featured as a kind of strategic high point from which the tribe spread across the seven counties of northern Taiwan. This part of Atayal history is told in the tale of chief Ikmbuta, a wise and strong leader who one day realized that his people were too numerous and that the tribal lands no longer could support the growing Atayal population. Together with two brave men — Ikmayan and Ikmyabox — Ikmbuta left Pinsbkan and headed to Papak-Wagu, or Tapachien Mountain, and from this high point surveyed the world before him. Looking down at the big and little rivers, Ikmbuta was able to chart a mental map of the world he saw and promptly set off with his two companions to find new land to populate, and to mark the expanded Atayal territorial boundary.
“Over the years, the Atayal people came to revere Tapachien Mountain in line with its important role in the tribe's cosmogonic myth. The mountain is further considered sacred, being a place where dead souls travel to paradise. If a man had been a brave and successful headhunter, or a woman had been a skilled weaver, for example, then they could complete the journey to paradise via Tapachien Mountain. Finally, Tapachien Mountain is generally respected by the Atayal as the origin of water, and therefore of all nature and life.
“It is perhaps not surprising that in the process of constructing myths about their origins and after life, the Atayal turned to the mountains that stand at the center of their world and dominate the topography all around. Even today, it is impossible to go to Tapachien Mountain and be left unaffected by the mystery and grandeur of this majestic peak.”
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest (Snow Mountain Range in Northern Taiwan) covers 450 square kilometers and is known for its giant cypress trees, some of which are hundreds of years old, and rare fauna and flora. Comprised of steep peaks and deep valleys at an elevation of roughly 1,200 meters above ground, the isolated region contains birds, beasts, reptiles, insects and trees that have evolved independently from the rest of the world, including 14 vascular plants that have survived the ice age. An average rainfall of 500 centimeters a year produces a year-round mist that shrouds the forest's peaks, adding to their mystery and isolation.
Cilan's most ancient residents, 62 of which are more than 400 years old, are a group of primordial cypress trees revered as "Sacred Woods.” The forest contains two indigenous evergreen species - the Taiwan Red Cypress (Chamaecyparis formosensis) and the Taiwan Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis taiwanensis) - and a protected thistle plant (Cirsium albescens) whose effusive white flower head graces the left bottom corner of all NT$1,000 bills.
In a tribute to their divine status, the cypress trees are named after famous Chinese dignitaries, each chosen for a tree whose age corresponds to the time period when the historic figure lived. There's Sima Qian the historian, Chu Hsi the philosopher, Bao Zheng the judge and Yang Guifei the imperial consort, but the highest honor belongs to the oldest cypress of them all - the 2,560-year-old Confucius, named after the most venerated scholar and educator in Chinese history.
Cilan Mountain Cypress Forest straddles the Taiwanese counties of Yilan, Hsinchu, Taoyuan and New Taipei and remains a stronghold of the Atayal aborigines. The region's namesake is derived from an ancient Atayal legend about two ill-fated lovers, from whose burial place sprung a giant cypress tree decorated with beautiful orchids. Their tribesmen were so touched by their love that they named the region "Cilan” ("Resting Place of the Orchids”), denoting a place where the bond between trees and orchids are as tight as those among Atayal people. A log cabin that once belonged to Chiang Kai-shek still stands in the Cilan Forest Recreation Area today.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Taiwan (Republic of China) tourism and government websites, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020